The Bourbon coffee cultivar was initially planted on the Indian Ocean island of Bourbon by the French in the early 18th century. Historically, the Bourbon coffee plants have gone through many mutations and variations, and the cherries can now be found in red, yellow and orange colours. The fruit itself is fairly small and dense, and is currently harvested most in Central America and Brazil. Its berries have a less conical shape than other types, and tend to mature faster than other berries. The taste can change depending on where they’re planted, but Bourbon coffees are known to have a crisp acidity and sweet, caramel undertones. The best results for Bourbon coffees are often found when the plants are grown between 3,500-6,500 feet.
Caturra is a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal and was named after the town in which it was first discovered in Brazil. A shorter plant than the Bourbon, the Caturra is high yielding and tends to boast more citrus flavours like lemon and lime. However, it has less body and sweetness than the Bourbon. Caturra requires extensive care and fertilisation and is best produced between 1,500-5,500 feet; the higher the altitude, the better the quality. In higher altitudes such as Central America and Colombia, Caturra has grown in popularity due to its rich taste. Movement has decreased in its birthplace, Brazil, as the country’s low altitude has led to low quality productions. As a result, Caturra has never been commercially sold in Brazil.
Gesha is named after its hometown in southern Ethiopia, where it is often thought to produce the best taste. Typically, Gesha coffees are strong in jasmine and vanilla, with a clean and fruity flavour. The Gesha is only relatively new, as it was only discovered in 1998 when a coffee farmer from Panama salvaged some of its seeds from extreme rain in the area. When it was planted in Ethiopia, its brilliant taste was discovered, and the Gesha tree was born. This varietal is a rare coffee type that is known for its low yield and elongated seeds. Depending on where it is planted, the Gesha tree can change drastically in flavour, and can also change in size, sometimes growing up to 15 feet tall.
The Catuai cultivar is one of the most planted cultivars in all of Latin America and is a cross between the Mundo Novo and Caturra varietals. The plant is relatively short, matures late and requires significant fertilisation and care. What makes the Catuai favourable for producers is its resistance; the berries don’t fall off the trees easily and survive well in dense environments, making it easier to farm in harsh winds or rain. The Catuai is most renowned for this strong resistance over its quality. Commonly, the berries come in two colours, red and yellow. Both have very acidic tastes, however the red-coloured berries maintain their clean flavour longer than the yellow variety.
Typica is the base from which several types of coffee are developed. It was first discovered in the Kaffa Rainforest in Ethiopia centuries ago and was the first varietal of the species. Currently, Typica coffee has a very low rate of production but is known for its excellent quality. The taste of the Typica coffee tends to have a sweet acidity, similar to apples and pears, and is mainly produced in Central America, Indonesia and Jamaica. Typica coffee plants flaunt a clean, full-bodied flavour, and generally have a conical shape. Branches grow at an angle between 45 and 60 degrees to the stem and exhibit bronze-coloured leaves.
The Catimor cultivar is a cross between Timor coffee, which is resistant to rust, and Caturra. Created in Portugal in 1959, the Catimor requires close attention when it’s fertilised due to its early maturation. At higher altitudes, the Catimor becomes harder to maintain, but when harvested correctly, has a much better cup quality than other commercial coffee varietals. It requires shade and strict methods of fertilisation to produce the highest yield. Ultimately, this varietal is known more for its resistance to environment and its challenging methods of production than for its quality. This mix creates a very sour and acidic taste, making it quite salty.
Ethiopian Heirloom coffee varietals are produced in over 1000 forms. Most varieties of Ethiopian Heirlooms resemble the Typica varieties native to Yemen, but newer types are grown in Indonesia and Latin America. Often seen as the most distinctive and flavourful coffee on the planet, Ethiopian Heirlooms produce some of the most desirable tastes available. Each flavour is different depending on the way it’s processed, but can include floral flavours such as jasmine, citrus flavours such as lemon and lime, as well as wild berries and chocolate. The floral and citrus tones are generally produced in a wet environment, while more fruity and medium-bodied acidic tones come from a dry-process environment.
Often referred to as “Brazilian Bourbon”, the Mundo Novo is a natural hybrid of Red Bourbon and Typica first discovered in Brazil. It is commonly grown in Sumatra, but some argue that the best Mundo Novo beans are found in Brazil. It boasts a high yield, but has a longer maturation time than most other coffee cultivars. The Mundo Novo plant is tall in height with red fruit and is resistant to disease. It survives best in altitudes between 3,500-5,500 feet, where it is also most robust. Mundo Novo coffees are known for their dark berry flavor and can present tastes of dark chocolate and citrus.
Pacamara is a hybrid varietal of Maragogype, from the Typica family, and Pacas, a strain similar to the Bourbon cherry. When Pacamara is at its finest, it has a distinct citrus flavour and scent, though its profile can change depending on where it’s grown. Most Pacamara beans are very broad and large, much like its parent Maragogype. In El Salvador, where is it regularly harvested, Pacamara is noted to have a nutty taste with hints of cinnamon, berries and chocolate. Tastes can be very dynamic, sometimes producing hints of butterscotch or fruit. When grown at higher elevations, the coffees that Pacamara plants produce tend to be of higher cup quality.
Maracatu, often known as Maracaturra, is a hybrid coffee bean made from the Maragogype strain and the Caturra strain. Maracatu gets its large size from the Maragogype relation and is a relatively new varietal that is prominent in Central America. It originated in Brazil and can also be found in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Mexico. Maracatu plants produce the best results at an altitude of 2500 feet or higher. The stalk is larger than most coffee plants and displays large leaves with red berries. Typically, the taste of a Maracatu coffee is bright and fruity with a complex acidity.
Colombia coffee varietals spawned out of a hybrid between the Robusta and Arabica species. They have since been developed into ten versions for production, labelled F1-F10. Coffee beans cultivated in Colombia are only of the Arabica variety, but the entire species has grown in popularity all over the world. The F10 varietal, known as Castillo, is considered the highest quality and is the most common type found in Colombia. The level of acidity between Colombia varietals varies, but none tend to produce an overly sweet or strong flavour.
Jember coffee was first discovered in Ethiopia but has found a more common home for production in Indonesia, where it was named. It was distributed to local farmers from members of the Jember Coffee Research group who are based in Indonesia. It was originally released in India, where the Kent-based Ethiopian bean was crossed with the Typica strain, creating what is now known as Jember. This varietal has a good resistance to leaf rust and frequently grow tall and wide, with a dense amount of foliage. The plant flowers all year round, but can take up to two years to begin flowering after it’s planted. The young cherries are green in colour but turn red when ripe. Jember is notable for its excellent cup profile and usually produces tastes of brown sugar, caramel or maple syrup.
The SL28 coffee variety was produced by Scott Laboratories (SL) in Kenya in 1931. It is one of two types of coffee beans developed by SL at the time, the other being SL34, each picked for their agricultural and economic benefits. It is a low-yielding plant although it makes a higher quality berry than other hybrids. The leaves on an SL28 plant are copper in colour and the beans are usually broad in size. SL28’s popularity comes from the sweet, almost tropical flavor that the bean produces. As a hybrid of the Bourbon and Mokka varietals, the SL28 boasts a rich, blackcurrant acidity.
The SL34 coffee variety was produced by Scott Laboratories (SL) in Kenya in 1931. SL34 is a mutation of the Bourbon varietal, much like SL28, but can be planted at a much lower altitude and survives better in harsh wind or rain environments. SL34 is more bronze in colour, hinting that it may have strong lineage with the Typica strain. It is also known by its heavy mouthfeel and citrus-like, sweet acidity. SL34’s fruity aroma and berry taste have made it one of the most popular coffee types in all of Africa.
Tekisic coffee is derived from the Bourbon cultivar. It was developed in El Salvador by Guatamalan and Honduran farmers who needed a high quality coffee plant to boost their farm’s potential. With a uniquely large gap between its berries on the branches, Tekisic sets itself apart from other Bourbon descendants. The large gap means the plant yields low quantities of coffee, but the plant still exhibits exceptional quality. Tekisic plants produce branches at a 45 degree angle to the stem and the beans tend to be small and thick in size. The berries make an intensely sweet taste and often include hints of brown sugar and caramel. The flavour from a Tekisic coffee comes with a heavy mouthfeel and layered acidity.
The Villalobos varietal is a mutation of the Bourbon strain, though it also shares attributes with Typica strains. The bronze leaves and 60 degree angle between the stem and the branches are common to a Typica strain plant. The best quality Villalobos plants are produced at a high altitude in shady areas. Production isn’t as challenging as other high altitude coffee beans as Villalobos is extremely resistant to strong winds and develops well in soils that are lacking complete nutrients. This varietal is often produced in the Western Valley of Costa Rica between 4000-5500 feet. Villalobos coffees are desired worldwide due to their outstanding sweetness and fine, acidic flavour.
Villa Sarchi coffee strains are a natural mutation of the Bourbon varietal and come from the Costa Rican town of Sarchi. Similar to the Typica strains, branches on Villa Sarchi plants grow at a 45 degree angle to its stem and have bronze-coloured leaves. It is typically grown at heights of 4000-5500 feet and is optimally grown in shady areas with non-chemical, organic farming methods. Villa Sarchi coffees exhibit polished acidity with a sweet and intense, fruity taste. The cup quality for Villa Sarchi coffees can differ depending on how the beans are processed; they are able to be wet-processed or dried, but need to be handled delicately or they lose their quality.
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